What is a Master’s Degree?

what is a master's degree

The four years that it takes to finish an undergraduate degree seems more than enough for a lot of people. However, if you are someone who is ambitious and wants to achieve more in their career, you may be thinking about continuing your education.

The educational system can be complicated so you might not be fully aware of what levels come after a Bachelor’s Degree. All education that comes after you finish your undergraduate studies is called graduate or post-graduate studies. There are two types of this higher education:

  • Master’s Degree
  • Doctoral Degree

Most people choose to complete a Master’s Degree because it takes less time and there are more Master’s Degrees awarded per year rather than Doctoral Degrees. Doctoral studies are longer, typically 5 or more years and only a handful of people are accepted.

After evaluating your options of graduate degrees, you are now wondering “What is a Master’s Degree?”

What Is A Master’s Degree?

Stat: Based on the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment in a Master’s Degree programs has increased by 44% between 1996 and 2010 and is expected to increase at a rate of 19% between 2010 and 2021.

A Master’s Degree is a graduate degree you can obtain in a specific field of study and become more knowledgeable and deemed as an expert in that field. It opens a lot of doors for many new and exciting opportunities. It’s worth has been debated, so if you’re asking yourself as to why you should go to grad school, all research indicates that Master’s Degree are completely worth it and pay off.

During a Master’s Degree course there are tuition fees to pay and courses to complete like in an undergraduate degree, but there is also an expectation that all enrolled students will do original research. So if you are still wondering about the details of what a Master’s Degree is, we have all the information and answers to the questions you might have to help you make a more informed decision.

Why Do A Master’s Degree?

Stat: The National Center for Education Statistics has found out that in 2015 those who had a Master’s Degree earned a median income of $69,530 as opposed to their Bachelor’s Degree counterparts who earned a median annual income of $54,960. This shows that having a Master’s Degree will increase your median annual salary by almost $15,000.

Enrolling in a Master’s Degree program or essentially in grad school is done for many reasons. Before deciding whether a Master’s Degree is the right choice for you, you should analyze the situation you are currently in and think about the benefits that grad school would bring you and your career.

There are many reasons why people choose to go to graduate school but the top one is to become an expert at a field. A Master’s Degree and the coursework you will complete will give you specific knowledge about your field of study which you can apply in your work, and open up many career paths for you.

Also, research shows that having a Master’s Degree increases your salary potential and you will definitely earn more compared to someone with only a Bachelor’s Degree.

Another reason to do a Master’s Degree is to get promoted and advance in your career, or even change your career entirely. There are many more benefits that having a Master’s Degree will bring you in your professional life, and most of the time depending on your personal goals, the benefits will outweigh the costs.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Master’s Degree?

The duration of a Master’s Degree or graduate study program takes about two years to complete, but it depends on various factors. These factors can range from your chosen field of study, the university that you choose to complete your coursework in, or the method through which you complete it.

If you are on-campus then getting a Master’s Degree will take a shorter amount of time, but if you choose to attend as a part-time student or complete your coursework online, then it might take longer. Besides these factors, there are many other things that influence how long does a Master’s Degree take to complete.

In case you are time-constrained or you cannot currently afford going to graduate school, you could also do a post-graduate certificate. In post-graduate certificates you take a few courses, typically 3 or 4 for a semester and get a certificate of completion. These courses can help you in your career, but they can also be transferred to universities in case you decide to do a Master’s Degree program later when you have more time and can pay for it.

How Much Does A Masters Degree Cost?

Education in general is quite expensive depending on the country you are from and how the government helps you pay for it. With each level of education that you complete, the tuition fees and other materials might increase in price, so graduate school is logically quite expensive.

The cost of getting a Master’s Degree depends on factors such as your field of study, the university you choose to attend, your location, method of study, and many others. You might find different ways to finance your education so that you end up with the least amount of debt or you pay less from your own pocket.

Read more about how much does it cost to get a Masters Degree.

Getting financial aid for Master’s Degree studies

You could apply for scholarships and financial aid in different universities. Depending on your credentials and achievements, as well as your ability to afford graduate school, you might be able to get partial or full funding for your studies. In addition, many employers value employees who seek to get more education. That is why you should also talk to your employer and see whether you qualify for tuition reimbursement. This means that your employer might fund a part of your education on the condition that you continue working for them and advance yourself.

What Are The Types Of Master’s Degrees?

Stat: During the academic year of 2014 and 2015, about 25% of all graduate students enrolled in schools to obtain a degree related to business such as management, finance, accounting, and others.

Universities try to offer a variety of Master’s Degrees to meet the needs of all students. Depending on the demand and their finances, graduate schools have an ever growing list of degrees in different fields. You can apply to get a Master’s Degree in theoretical physics, strategic management, economic development, fine arts and many, many others.

However, there are some fields which have higher enrollment than others and that depends on the country and the economy.

After business, the second most enrolled graduate degree was in health related fields, where 14% of all graduate students enrolled.

But if you are considering to apply for graduate school and are not sure in what field you should go, try to see what the market is demanding. It is much smarter to avoid going into fields which have such high enrollments, since the competition is high and thus salaries are lower. Instead, you should look at what the best Master’s Degrees for the future are. They concentrate on statistics, computer science, nursing, and engineering.

Besides the different fields that exist for getting a Master’s Degree, when you graduate you will be given different titles. The most common Master’s Degree titles are:

  • Master of Arts (MA) – This title is awarded to students who complete their degrees in the humanities and social sciences such Economics, Art, English, Philosophy, and others.
  • Master of Science (MSc) – The title is given to those who graduate with a Master’s Degree in science fields such as Math, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, and similar others.
  • Masters in Business Administration (MBA) – The title is given to students who complete graduate school requirements in business and other fields related to it.

How To Apply For A Master’s Degree

There are different procedures for different schools on how to apply for a Master’s Degree but they all share some similarities in what they require. The way to apply for a Master’s Degree is as follows:

Select your field of interest

This means that amongst the hundreds of possible Master’s Degrees that you can get, you have to choose one and narrow down your expertise. The field of study will determine the rest of the application procedure.

Choose a university

The field of study will decrease the number of universities that you can apply to. Not all universities will offer what you want to learn and the courses you want to take.

That is why you should check:

  • university accreditation
  • the faculty
  • student demographics
  • alumni statistics
  • the university curricula

Based on these criteria, you should have a list of a handful of universities which match your needs, and then proceed to the next steps.

Look at the Master’s Degree requirements

The universities you have selected will have various requirements for accepting graduate students, so make sure you check everything and if you have any questions, contact the school’s graduate admissions office. Most graduate schools will have these requirements for Masters Degree:

  • Official transcripts and diploma from your undergraduate studies – these will help the university look at your previous courses and performance. Many schools have GPA requirements for Master’s Degree such that your GPA should be 3.0 or above.
  • One or two essays – the topic will be stated in the university’s website or guide to applications
  • Letters of recommendation – from your previous professors, advisors, mentors, or employers
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) – universities want to see your work experience and you have done before so you should include your resume or CV.
  • Standardized test scores – depending on your field of study or the country you are applying in, universities might require you to take English language requirement tests such as TOEFL or graduate school tests such as the GRE or the GMAT.
  • Research Proposal – if you are applying for research intensive fields, the university might also ask you to submit a detailed research proposal on what you will analyze and how you will complete it.

Besides these documents, they can also ask to conduct an interview to see whether you fit with the school’s mission and the potential they expect from their students. You should make sure you submit everything into the university’s system, email them, or mail the hard copies.

All this should be done before the application deadline. There might be different dates when you have to submit documents, and many universities even have early admissions dates when they do not charge application fees or you might have higher chances of being accepted.

In case you want to get a scholarship or financial aid, check the school’s additional requirements and send in those documents before the specified deadlines too.

How To Get A Master’s Degree

After you apply and get your offer to attend the university, depending on the number of offers you have gotten you will choose one university. That will be the place where you will get your Master’s Degree from. The real work will begin when you start your semesters.

  • Enroll in the necessary coursework – for each semester you should enroll in the courses that will help you get your degree. Your coursework might be divided into core and elective courses so consult with your advisor to determine what you should enroll in every semester
  • Complete coursework – courses during graduate school are much more difficult than undergraduate courses. Professors expect a higher level of discussion and debate, so be ready to participate and share your opinion. There might even be more reading material and group projects, so try to join study groups or devise new studying methods that work for you. If there are concepts which you found unclear during class go to the professor’s office hours or consult with their teaching assistant.
  • Do an internship/field study – based on the field of study, the university might require you to do an internship of do research in the field. If you have such requirements, start thinking early about what you want to research and where you would like to work.

How Many Credits Do You Need For A Masters Degree?

In comparison to Bachelor’s Degrees, credits needed for a Masters Degree may depend on different things. Most often to complete the graduate school degree you might need from 15 to 54 credits. The number of credits can be determined by your field of study, the university you have chosen, the location and so on.

Masters Degrees which are longer, so those with one and a half year or two years long have more credits. However, if you want to complete an accelerated study so finish your Master’s degree for less than that time, you might have to complete a lot more credits per semester.

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